Ever get really teary or moody a week or so before your period? You're not alone. About 85 percent of women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the condition affecting everything from chocolate craving to bloating to feeling blue. PMS tends to get worse when women hit their 40s--the reason may have something to do with fluctuating hormones--and it can worsen other conditions you may suffer from, like migraines and asthma.
A smaller number of women suffer from PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Think of it as PMS on steroids, with more severe depression and mood swings, insomnia, and fatigue. PMDD can be so debilitating, in fact, that many women find it hard to function effectively at home or at work in the week or so leading up to their periods.
A study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center reviewed the evidence for a range of treatments. One of their findings: Calcium supplements (at least 1,000 mg daily) can improve symptoms. Researchers found other herbal remedies or supplements weren't effective at all.
So what else helps? Because hormones are thought to have a negative effect on serotonin, the brain chemical responsible for regulating mood, anti-depressants that increase levels of serotonin, like Prozac, can relieve feelings of sadness. So doctors often prescribe them first to women with PMDD.
If you are unable to take anti-depressants, talk to your doctor about taking birth control pills that contain drosperinone and ethinyl estradiol. They've also been effective for lessening PMDD's symptoms.